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Our Summer Bucket List

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Summer is a calling, and it’s a great time to embark on an unforgettable trail adventure in North Carolina! Here are 11 activities we’ll be surely checking off of our list!

Year of the Trail Artwork
Artwork by guest artist Lauren Patterson @lataplat.

As summer approaches, it’s time to dust off those hiking boots, grab your paddle, and get ready for an incredible outdoor experience in the Great Trails State – North Carolina! With abundant natural beauty and a diverse trail system, North Carolina offers many activities to add to your summer bucket list. Here are 11 activities that are on ours! (Header image courtesy of

  1. Ride a Horse in the Mountains: Saddle up and experience the breathtaking beauty of North Carolina’s trails on horseback. Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a beginner, there are numerous equestrian-friendly trails throughout the state that provide a unique perspective of the landscape. If you’re looking to get out on a horse in the mountains, check out Rusty Spur Trail Rides!

  2. Paddle the Dan River Paddle: Take to the waters and embark on a tranquil paddle along the Dan River. With its calm currents and picturesque surroundings, this paddling adventure is perfect for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a peaceful escape. Find out more information here.

  3. Hike along the MST: Lace up your hiking boots and challenge yourself to hike a portion of the renowned Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST). This epic trail spans over 1,175 miles, offering diverse terrains, breathtaking vistas, and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural, cultural, and historical wonders of North Carolina.

  4. Explore the Carolina Thread Trail: Discover the hidden gems of North Carolina’s Piedmont region as you explore the Carolina Thread Trail. This extensive network of trails weaves through urban areas, parks, and natural landscapes, providing a fantastic opportunity for walking, running, and cycling.

  5. Participate in NC State Parks 100-Mile Challenge: Test your endurance and embark on an incredible journey by taking part in the NC State Parks 100-Mile Challenge. Explore the scenic trails of various state parks across North Carolina, and strive to complete 100 miles of hiking, biking, or paddling within a year.

  6. Hike a Trail off of the Parkway: Venture off the beaten path and discover the wonders of the BlueRidge Parkway’s adjacent hiking trails. From cascading waterfalls to stunning overlooks, these trails offer unforgettable experiences amidst the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains.

  7. Find a Waterfall and Explore it Safely: North Carolina is renowned for its stunning waterfalls. Research and find a nearby waterfall to visit, ensuring you follow safety guidelines while enjoying its beauty. Take a refreshing dip, capture amazing photos, and create unforgettable memories. Learn more about the best way to safely see a waterfall.

  8. Try one or more of NC’s State Trails: North Carolina boasts a collection of state trails, each offering unique experiences. From the scenic Coastal Crescent Trail to the adventure-filled Piedmont Loop Trail, these trails cater to a variety of interests and provide an opportunity to connect with nature. Learn more about NC’s State Trails here.

  9. Try a Rail Trail: Explore North Carolina’s history and natural beauty on one of the state’s charming rail trails. Choose from trails like the Tobacco Trail, Thermal Belt Rail Trail, Deep River State Trail, Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway, South Fort Trail, or Winston Salem Strollway.

  10. Find a Story Trail: Unleash your inner bookworm and embark on a literary adventure along one of North Carolina’s story trails. The NC State Library offers a map with locations where you can combine hiking with reading, making it a fun-filled activity for both children and adults.

  11. Go on a Bike Ride on a Trail: Hop on your bicycle and enjoy a refreshing ride along one of North Carolina’s picturesque trails. Whether you prefer a leisurely cruise on a greenway or an exhilarating mountain biking experience over rugged terrain, the state’s trail system offers a wide range of options to suit all skill levels. Don’t have a bike? Many locations offer rentals, just search for a local bike shop and call for details and advice relevant to where you are!

So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your paddle, saddle up, and get ready to immerse yourself in the charm and splendor of the Great Trails State’s many trails no matter how you explore. Let the trails guide you to hidden gems, awe-inspiring vistas, family adventures, health, and moments of tranquility. Get out there and make the most of this summer by checking off items from our list, or create your own!

Remember to always respect and preserve the natural environment, follow trail etiquette, and adhere to safety guidelines to ensure a responsible and enjoyable experience. So, go ahead and start planning your summer trail escapades here in North Carolina—the trails are waiting for you!

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